Thursday, March 11, 2010

notes on diaries of girls who run with wolves

One of the books I bought recently is Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia, and Beyond edited by Tina Chang, Nathalie Handal and Ravi Shankar. The book is captivating, a treasure trove of so many writers. It is divided into 9 sections, representing, as the editors note, "an entire cosmology of planets that, when taken together, offers a glimpse into the complex array of voices that make up these regions' poetry."

Each section has a title from a poem in that section, one star in the constellation of poems that make up a section. The following comes from the section Buffaloes Under Dark Water, the section which, as the editors note, "contains mysterious, shrouded duende-tinged luminescent bursts of lyric that resist the notion of taxonomy, even as they inhere together like shadows."

Bhanu Kapil, from The Wolf Girls of Midnapure:

"A working note: In 1920s colonial India, a jungle missionary, Reverent Joseph Singh, found two girls suckling a mother wolf. He killed the wolf and brought the feral girls, Kamala and Amala, to his Mission orphanage in Midnapure. Here, he kept a diary of their adaptation to human life, which was published in 1942 as Wolf-children and Feral Man, coauthored with the anthropologist Robert Zingg. In the excerpts that follow, I [Bhanu Kapil] have rewritten this colonial account to include the undocumented voices or versions of the wolf girls themselves; the wolf mother; the Reverent Singh's wife; the Mission's Muslim cook, Assi-ma; and the 'sorcerer,' sent by the girls' original, human mother, who tracks the wolf girls to the Mission, then is asked to heal the youngest girl, Amala, who is dying. She dies. Kamala lives, constantly resisting efforts to turn her 'into a human being again.'"

"...I ask the rain the rain to soften the earth so my life may come back to me, upward.

The younger, I fear,

her life turned into a snakebird; flew up into the blacking sky, a migrant. By now to the south and east, grazing in a lush swamp grotted with basic lilies. Perhaps it is for the best.


A girl was a speck on the ground, so the wolf-wife picked her up in her hairy beak and flew off into the trees.

When the girl was found in the milky cave, they shot her mother and tore her out of her hair.

Because she urinated standing up, they wrapped her pelvis in white cottons. Because she keened over her bowl of sugary tea, they spoke English, enunciating."

children's book When I Met the Wolf Girls

"In an excerpt from The Diary of the Wolf Girls of Midnapure, [Banu Kapil] Rider’s ‘Working Note’ provides important context for the arc of her project:

I am interested in those subjects — nomads, immigrants, cyborgs, wolf girls — who are segmented and seeking: a woman, for example, re-attributing herself or unfolding to a set plane upon command. What does the shape of her body and her mind look like as she moves through the world? (A woman who, in the narrative, precedes and follows her own birth. The whole body has the same tone, thus no ellipsis, no separate commentaries or asterisks.) That is my experiment: to make the line travel towards a confused origin — hyper-organic, splitting the skin, still livid. (HOW(ever) v. 1, 5, 2001.)"

Canadian Timber Wolves


20th Century Woman said...

I think girls and wolves somehow mystically connect. I saw wolves crossing the road in BC a couple of years ago, almost white wolves like the one in your picture. It was snowing lightly. I slowed the truck, and the biggest wolf stopped, turned and my gaze met hers. Then they trotted off into the woods. It was a magic moment.

northshorewoman said...

Hello 20th C Woman, yes, and you had that great post about that wolf and woman painting that hangs in your home. I should've linked to it! That is a very evocative/provocative painting.

What an amazing encounter you had! It reminds me of something Beth Brant once wrote. She, too, had an eye-to-eye encounter with an animal spirit on a road that changed her life.